What Nicky Norwood craves most are moments of peace with his family. These could be playing catch with his son Reed, talking about the latest adventures of his daughter Alex, and enjoying the home-cooked meals of his wife Sherry.
But more often than not, these activities have to be planned around the condition of his
“I get frustrated with my physical limitations,” says Nicky. “There are times when all I can do is curl up in bed for days.”
The two ruptured disks in his lower back are the result of a Humvee crash in Iraq. If Nicky can find a comfortable sleeping position, he can escape the pain. But nightmares often bring an end to his rest.
“The image is there in my dream, just as it happened in Iraq. A pistol pops up in the crowd. I grab my rifle, click the safety off, and am just about to press the trigger – until I see that the person is holding a toy gun.”
As Nicky puts it, “That’s just a drop in the bucket.” His wife often wakes up in the middle of the night to Nicky reacting to his nightmares, many of which are caused by visions of Iraqi mothers begging for help for their children. At the Najaf Joint Coordination Center, it was Nicky’s job to turn them away and that responsibility continues to haunt him.
“When you can’t help a mother and her little kid, your mind can’t process the dark side of human suffering. You want to put yourself out of that sheer misery.”
Nicky says he tried to lock those memories in his mind and throw away the key, but he knew he could not recover on his own. That’s why he credits Wounded Warrior Project® (WWP) with teaching him how to confront his issues, talk them out with other injured veterans, and experience the positive give-and-take of helping a fellow warrior while receiving help at the same time.
“Wounded Warrior Project has brought me back to life. In the Peer Mentor program, you build and earn trust by putting yourself out there. It makes it easier for guys to talk with each other. The things I talk about seem to get better in my mind, while the things I hide always tend to
come back around.”
Sherry is also involved in the WWP Peer Mentor program for caregivers, and according to Nicky, she excels at it.
“She really grasps it and helps others tremendously,” Nicky says. “Through Wounded Warrior Project, she helps caregivers who are following the same path we once traveled. We’re all dealing with pain – emotional and physical – and that’s okay. We’re going to make it.”
Nicky says that’s why it’s so important for the public to support WWP.
“You’re not just supporting a program. You’re saving lives, changing lives, and improving lives. The emotional pain of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is like a roller coaster that never ends. I want to help other warriors avoid that nightmarish ride. Before WWP, it wasn’t possible. Now, warriors and their families can conquer challenges once deemed impossible.”